After nine seasons at Real Madrid, 32-year-old Gareth Bale is departing the club this summer at the expiration of his contract on June 30 and he has settled on a new destination.
On June 27, MLS club LAFC officially announced that it signed the Wales international on a one-year deal running through June 2023 with a club option for an extra year (through June 2024 when Bale will be turning 35). Two days earlier, Bale himself confirmed the move on his social channels after multiple reports surfaced.
ESPN’s Taylor Twellman reported that Bale would make his MLS debut on July 8 in a derby match against LA Galaxy. The LA-based club is the top team in MLS and recently added former Italy international Giorgio Chiellini, who will make his MLS bow on the same day.
Bale joined Real Madrid from Tottenham in 2013 for a massive $111 million transfer fee, and would go on to win an illustrious five Champions League titles with the club. He made 238 appearances for the Spanish side, scoring 106 goals and assisting another 67.
He had multiple memorable Champions League final moments with Madrid, including the game-winning goal in extra-time of the 2014 final against Juventus, and a pair of goals — including his famous overhead kick — in the 2018 final against Liverpool.
Unfortunately, his recent years with the Spanish giants turned sour, thanks to a host of injuries plus a dip in form that led fans to blame Bale’s struggles on his off-field interests, including golf.
Bale made just 21 La Liga appearances over his final two seasons in Spain, with a year on loan at Tottenham sandwiched in between. He was made a scapegoat for poor team runs, and his love of golf was villainized by fans and media.
Why Gareth Bale signed with LAFC
LAFC’s season calendar (February through November) lines up well with Bale’s focus on the 2022 World Cup. The 34-game regular season ends on Oct. 9 and the MLS Cup title match will be played on Nov. 5 if LAFC get that far. That gives Bale a full two weeks to prepare for the World Cup opener against the USA on Nov. 21.
That’s one more full week than he would have had at a European club, and potentially more if LAFC don’t reach the MLS Cup final. European leagues will play their final weekend of matches ahead of the World Cup break on Nov. 12-13.
Also, had Bale signed for a Europe-based team, he also would not have been able to start serious competitive action until early August, missing a full month to build match fitness. He is expected to make his debut with LAFC on July 8.
The early speculation was that qualifying to the World Cup would lead Bale to sign a short-term contract with his hometown club Cardiff City in preparation for Qatar 2022 in November. And some had surmised that failure to qualify for the World Cup would have seen him possibly retire from the game at the age of 32.
However, after helping Wales achieve World Cup qualification, Bale will be hoping to continue to make history in Qatar. Wales are installed as the slight favorite to get out of Group B alongside England. But they are also listed as slight underdogs for the opening group match against the USA on Nov. 21. Only the top two teams from each group advance to the knockouts.
🗣 "It's what dreams are made of"— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 5, 2022
Gareth Bale reacts to a historic night for Wales 👇pic.twitter.com/9orfHe7u7m
Gareth Bale LAFC contract details
The LAFC news came as a complete surprise since months before it was D.C. United that was connected to the Wales star.
ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman subsequently reported that David Beckham’s club, Inter Miami, had made an attempt to acquire the star. In fact, LAFC had to compensate Inter Miami for the ability to sign Bale.
“They [LAFC] had to trade something to Inter Miami [to compensate them] because Miami was initially in conversations with Gareth Bale, but that didn’t work out,” Twellman said at halftime of a June 25 MLS broadcast. “Gareth Bale wanted to go to LA.”
What’s interesting about the Bale to LAFC deal is the way the contract looks to be structured.
MLS clubs can have up to three players on a squad who can be paid over and above the salary budget defined by the league every year, which is the same for every club. But similar to Chiellini, Bale will not be occupying one of the three “Designated Player” slots in 2022. Instead, his contract will be paid with Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), which are additional funds provided to MLS clubs which they can apply to select player salaries to stay within the defined budget.
The MLS salary structure differs from many leagues around the world, where clubs can outspend others in their league (though limits exist in those leagues based on a percentage of revenues generated), often leading to competitive imbalance.
Gareth Bale transfer news and rumors
There were several clubs that surfaced as potential destinations before Bale settled on LAFC.
From Spain, to Wales, England and the USA, here’s the list of teams that were linked with the player.
There was talk that Bale was getting set for a sensational stay in Madrid next season after being linked with a short term deal at Getafe. Club president Angel Torres claimed they were in the running to swoop for the Welshman.
💥💥💥💥💥Ángel Torres— Alberto Fernández (@afernan9) June 8, 2022
“Hace 45 minutos he hablado con el representante de Gareth Bale. Nos lo han ofrecido. Lo tenemos que estudiar con el cuerpo técnico y la dirección deportiva del Getafe.” pic.twitter.com/JnPcKk88Rf
Torres confirmed that Bale’s representatives reached out to him over a possible deal with the 32-year-old and he was assessing his next move.
“Forty-five minutes ago I spoke to Gareth Bale’s agent. They’ve offered him to us. We have to analyse this with the Getafe technical (coaching) staff and management.
💥💥Más de Ángel Torres sobre Gareth Bale— Alberto Fernández (@afernan9) June 8, 2022
“Esta mañana he hablado con su representante y me ha explicado que era posible hacerlo. El chico se quiere quedar en Madrid y jugar el mundial. Le tengo qe dar una vuelta y hablar con el entrenador. Depende al 50% de Bale y al 50% de mi” pic.twitter.com/sz1eotTAGH
“His agent explained it was possible to get it done. He wants to stay in Madrid [Getafe CF is based in Madrid] and play at the World Cup. I have to give it some thought and speak to the coach. It depends 50 percent on Bale and 50 percent on me.”
Talk of a potential deal with his hometown club Cardiff City, which finished 18th in the Championship in 2021-22, was fueled by comments from his Wales manager Robert Page, who said “it makes sense” for the club to be an option.
“He would definitely be a part of the World Cup squad anyway. As long as he is out playing football — that’s the most important thing for us,” Page told media.
The momentum for the move to join the Bluebirds only grew after Bale’s agent said “Cardiff has a lot of plusses.” Wales legend Ian Rush got behind the proposed move to Cardiff City.
After nine years in Madrid, a return to the city where he grew up and where he still has family could have made sense from a personal standpoint.
Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
In addition to Premier League clubs Newcastle United and Southampton, the other Premier League club that had been consistently mentioned in connection with Gareth Bale was his old club Tottenham, which also would have made sense given the history between the two.
Not only did Bale play for Spurs from 2007 to 2013, where he rose to prominence in the Premier League, but he also spent the 2020-21 season in London on loan as well.
Still, there is little else to connect the two other than past history. Spanish publication Fichajes reported on May 25 that Spurs boss Antonio Conte requested the club sign Bale, but otherwise, all the talk has been pure speculation with little actual reporting of any serious conversations.
D.C. United (MLS)
Washington Post reporter Steven Goff in April 2022 stated that Bale’s representatives had been in contact with MLS club D.C. United, but that negotiations were at that point still a ways away from seeing Bale close to a move to the U.S.
D.C. United in talks with Gareth Bale’s reps about move to MLS, I’m told. (They actually spoke months ago but didn’t go anywhere.) Sides exchanging proposals but unclear whether It will pick up speed. DCU prepared to pay more than Wayne Rooney in 2018. Bale leaving Real Madrid.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) April 21, 2022
Gareth Bale contract with Real Madrid
In 2017, Gareth Bale signed a new five-year contract with Real Madrid which lasted through the summer of 2022.
That contract ended on June 30, 2022 and transfer guru Fabrizio Romano reported in late March 2022 that Bale would depart Real Madrid. That projection was confirmed by the Welsh international on June 1 as he shared a farewell letter with the Real Madrid faithful:
Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett, stated on multiple occasions that he would leave Real Madrid at the end of the 2021/22 season, and that his future would at least partly depend on whether Wales qualify for the 2022 World Cup. They hosted and beat Ukraine 1-0 to clinch that ticket to Qatar 2022.
Gareth Bale stats with Real Madrid
|UEFA Champions League||59||16||19|
|Copa del Rey||13||3||4|
|FIFA Club World Cup||6||6||0|
|Supercopa de Espana||3||0||0|
|UEFA Super Cup||3||0||3|
Gareth Bale trophies won at Real Madrid
After moving to Real Madrid from Tottenham, Gareth Bale collected a vast array of club trophies and awards.
He won the Spanish top flight three times and the Champions League five times, plus one domestic cup title as well.
- La Liga (3): 2016-17, 2019-20, 2021-22
- UEFA Champions League (5): 2013-14, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2021-22
- Copa del Rey (1): 2013-14
- FIFA Club World Cup (3): 2014, 2017, 2018
- Supercopa de Espana (1): 2017
- UEFA Super Cup (3): 2014, 2016, 2017
- FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball (1): 2018
- UEFA Champions League team of the Season (1): 2015-16